Exotic tea suggestions?
December 6, 2004 8:11 AM   Subscribe

My aunt is really into tea, so I'd like to find some exotic tea to get her for Christmas. Last year I got her this, and she loved it. Anyone have any suggestions for a some nice unusual tea to get her this year?
posted by emptybowl to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The tea samplers from Adagio Teas make great gifts.
posted by skwm at 8:17 AM on December 6, 2004

Northern Delights tea blend made with plants hand-gathered from the tundra of Arctic Quebec. The tea has been created using the Inuit traditional knowledge of the various plant's medicinal properties.
posted by KathyK at 8:30 AM on December 6, 2004

Seconded on Adagio Teas, I ordered a sampler and cup from them for my fiancee. I was surprised how quickly the order was filled and how well packaged it was.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:39 AM on December 6, 2004

Ten Ren Tea has a bunch of great varieties and some cool gift ideas as well. Mighty Leaf does a lot of good work as well, and has some very nice looking bags (silk; with the tags stitched, instead of stapled).
posted by idontlikewords at 8:41 AM on December 6, 2004

The gift you last bought her looks fun. I am a big tea person - I grow my own, in New England - and one thing that I definitely love is the large variety of interesting and useful tea gadgets. Adagio is a good place for some of that, so I'll third that suggestion.

Is your aunt into drinking tea or tea, as a social ceremony of sorts? Is she into complicated process or into minimalism? That should help you find a great gift.
posted by crazy finger at 8:43 AM on December 6, 2004

Response by poster: She's into drinking tea, not social ceremony. She drinks tea like some people drink coffee. (5-6 cups a day) I'd say any device that makes delivery of tea to her stomach faster would be good.
posted by emptybowl at 8:49 AM on December 6, 2004

One idea that she might enjoy is a tea travel mug thing that my girlfriend recently bought. It's basically a travel mug with an internal french-press type of system. You put in your loose leaves, pour in hot water, put on the lid. Five minutes later you push down on the handle and the leaves are pushed to the bottom and the tea is ready to drink whenever.
posted by crazy finger at 8:56 AM on December 6, 2004

I don't know how exotic they are, but Republic of Tea are nice. I particularly enjoyed their cinnamon plum brand.

As far as devices go, there's always Bodum.
posted by bachelor#3 at 9:02 AM on December 6, 2004

thanks for this question - some of these suggestions are great! i've also ordered from adagio, and while their service was great, i didn't adore their tea. another site that has some great tea samplers is
posted by katie at 9:05 AM on December 6, 2004

Evening in Missoula is an excellent herbal tea, and if Montana isn't exotic, hey, what is?

Also, if there is a South Asian community near where you live, I'd suggest looking there for spice and tea merchants. Good hunting!
posted by jeffmshaw at 9:07 AM on December 6, 2004

How about tea picked by monkeys?
posted by veedubya at 9:20 AM on December 6, 2004

It might not be mass-consumption material, but I've heard wonderful things about Yinzhen Silver Needle. It's not unlikely that she hasn't had much exposure to white teas, so it might be a bit of a treat.
posted by cmyr at 9:39 AM on December 6, 2004

Upton Tea is where I order all my delicate assam.
posted by orange clock at 9:41 AM on December 6, 2004

I'm in Boston and love Tealuxe. It looks like the also have an Online store. You could give her the TeaTender Top Ten (see link at top)
posted by FreezBoy at 9:41 AM on December 6, 2004

Many of the suggestions listed so far are oriental or herbal teas. If your aunt is more into exotic black tea, then 'Kusmi' teas may tickle her fancy. These are the original blends favored in Czarist Russia. The company fled to France during the revolution and have operated there ever since. This internet source sells a gift box of four different blends along with a fancy strainer to remove tea leaves. Their prices are very competitive.

I have tried these teas personally (I have a running collection of over 70 types of teas) and they are outstanding.
posted by RMALCOLM at 9:56 AM on December 6, 2004

Real jasmine pearls are absolutely delightful. Most folks have tried some variation of jasmine tea, but I think that usually means a few leaves of jasmine in with a bunch of crappy black tea. Even pure jasmine tea comes in loose-leaf variety, and the super-posh "pearls" which are the same plant, but the choice parts, rolled up in to these dense little balls. The tea tastes amazing. It's like drinking the color lavendar.

You could also try a lapsang soochong, which is a black tea with a very smoky flavour. It's like drinking a nice campfire. Most people don't like it, just like most people don't like licorice. But if she's adventurous and likes black tea, she may enjoy it.

I don't have a particular brand to suggest for either variety but Numi and Peets are good.

Actually Numi sells some really nice gift boxes and all their stuff is great. It's all individual foil-wrapped tea bags, too, so if your recipient doesn't want to muss with a tea pot they don't have to. Their list of places to buy online looks like one hell of a tea store directory, too.
posted by scarabic at 10:06 AM on December 6, 2004

Lately I've been drinking and enjoying various types of rooibos (scroll down for full list). But then I also like peaty, smoky brands of single malt, so judge the recommendation accordingly.
posted by clever sheep at 10:41 AM on December 6, 2004

White tea requires a little bit more attention because you don't steep it as long. If she likes strong black teas, the white tea's more delicate flavor might not appeal beyond its novelty. If she likes all sorts of teas, go for it.

I second the suggestion of Tealuxe. Teavanais also good.

Another exotic option is yerba mate ("mah-tay"), a South American (Argentinian?) herb brewed like tea. Plain mate tastes like a strong wheat-green tea. Teavana sells a couple varieties, including an excellent blend they call Mate Vana: "A deliciously smooth combination of toasted Yerba Mate, almond bits, cactus blossoms, cornflower and sunflower petals, and crushed cocoa beans." Good stuff! It tastes good and smells somewhere between tea and hot chocolate.

Tealuxe and Teavana both sell loads of accessories in addition to the teas. Not sure where you are, so you may be limited to ordering on line, but I've found the staff at each place to be very helpful.
posted by jewishbuddha at 10:44 AM on December 6, 2004

Gift certificate from Upton Tea Imports. Very serious tea folks. Their print catalog is like going to tea school.
posted by anathema at 11:03 AM on December 6, 2004

I'll third/fourth the recommendation for white teas. They're verging on trendy now, so you might want to take care to check how much white tea there actually is in the blend, but they're definitely interesting and (I think) quite pleasant. Low in caffeine and, if it matters, rich in strange and exotic antioxidents. They will get too bitter very quickly, though.

I'm fond of Rooibos, too, and I don't think it's anything to be afraid of. The stuff I've had was actually quite unthreatening -- I've described it to people as being a bit like tea with much of the bitterness removed. Also said to be terribly healthy, too...

I used to get random herb teas from the health food store. They had a lilac blossom tea that was...interesting. If she's got a sense of whimsey, then you might just get a bunch of random stuff.
posted by lodurr at 11:42 AM on December 6, 2004

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

(somebody had to say it.)
posted by madman at 11:46 AM on December 6, 2004

I've also got to give props to Upton Tea Importers. They are great on the phone, too, or they have been to me. Call them and ask them the question.
posted by OmieWise at 12:28 PM on December 6, 2004

Steep Tea makes extremely high quality tea and hot chocolate, some of which they supply to high-falutin' restaurants like NYC's Balthazar. Their Mixim mix is a great gift for someone who likes tea, and includes interesting flavors like herbal absinthe and rooibos root, with award-winning packaging.

That's the good news. The bad news it that the Steep site is oddly designed, not very accurate with stock information, and generally irritating. Worse yet, they're currently charging $7.95 (!) for shipping. I've had mixed experiences with their customer service — in the past, they've lost orders, but one time their CEO showed up at my house on Dec. 24 to drop off a late order.

Your best bet is to call them at 800-STEEPCO. The whole process can be a bit of a hassle, but it's worth it for the amazing quality of the goods.
posted by jed at 2:45 PM on December 6, 2004

posted by Cosine at 3:23 PM on December 6, 2004

Nothing But Tea are a British company who do really fancy teas - I bought some for my tea-loving partner last year. Check out their lovely exotic teas. These are the kind of showy teas that you want to brew in a clear teapot so you can admire them. Bodum does a special tea infuser like that which I bought for my bloke. The lychee balls were extremely pretty and the Pu Erh is rather different. Their prices were very reasonable and it was all swiftly delivered. He was dead chuffed!
posted by Flitcraft at 4:43 PM on December 6, 2004

Teaism has a solid selection, especially green and oolong teas. If your aunt goes for the higher-end stuff, score her some Tie Guanyin ("The Iron Goddess of Mercy") or Gyokuro. The Lu Mu Dan scores high on the exotic scale- little "sea anemones" made of bundled tea leaves.

I know a couple of people who swear by SpecialTeas, but I haven't tried them out.

Also, Flitcraft's right about Pu Erh. Different varieties have different particular virtues, but if you like a really heavy aged black tea, you can't go wrong. It never goes bitter; you can steep it overnight(!) if you're feeling patient and it just tastes stronger. Imagine the smell of a really old book, in drinkable form. A lot of places sell it in stamped bricks, which can make a hell of an impression if you're used to cute little tea bags.
posted by Luther Blissett at 12:10 AM on December 7, 2004

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